Empowering Japan to defend its allies would benefit “nations of goodwill,” Philippine President Benigno Aquino said today after a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo.
His comments came as Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party nears agreement with its coalition partner New Komeito on reinterpreting the pacifist constitution to allow Japan to assist others amid increasing Chinese assertiveness in the region. Abe said he had explained his security plans to Aquino.
“We believe that nations of goodwill can only benefit if the Japanese government is empowered to assist others and is allowed the wherewithal to come to the aid of those in need, especially in the area of collective self-defense,” Aquino told reporters at Abe’s official residence.
The leaders share concerns over separate territorial disputes with China in the East China Sea and South China Sea. Abe has moved to bolster Japan’s security stance and last month pledged support for Southeast Asian countries in securing the seas and skies. Japan has welcomed the Philippines’ effort to resolve its maritime spat with China through a United Nations-endorsed tribunal.
Aquino said Philippine peace keepers in Syria had come under attack three times and would want to count on support from allies. He said he wanted to work with Abe toward a shared goal of regional peace and stability.
“We therefore do not view with alarm any proposal to revisit the Japanese constitution if the Japanese people so desire, especially if this enhances Japan’s ability to address its international obligations,” Aquino said.
Japan and the Philippines are working together in a “worsening regional environment,” Abe said at the briefing with Aquino. “I agreed with President Aquino to further strengthen our cooperation on security, beginning with disaster relief,” he said.
Japan has agreed to provide the Philippine Coast Guard with 10 new patrol vessels funded by aid loans. The Philippines expects the first of the ships to be delivered next year, the Philippine Daily Inquirer said in March.
China will be firm in upholding its territorial integrity and disputes in the region should be settled through direct talks with relevant nations, its top foreign policy official, State Councilor Yang Jiechi, said on June 21. Yang held discussions last week in Vietnam as the countries seek to defuse tensions over a Chinese exploration oil rig operating in waters within Vietnam's exclusive economic zone and territorial shelf.
Chinese and Japanese ships and planes have tailed one another around disputed East China Sea islands since Japan bought three of them from a private owner in 2012. Japan said earlier this month that a pair of Chinese fighter jets flew within tens of meters of Japanese surveillance planes in the East China Sea.
Abe has not held any bilateral summits with his counterparts in South Korea and China amid territorial disputes and recriminations over Japan’s aggression across the region in the first half of the 20th century. China and South Korea have expressed concern that Abe’s bid to ease the constitutional restrictions on the defense forces could signal a new Japanese militarism.
After touching on the war, Aquino praised Japan’s subsequent efforts to improve ties with Asian nations. “My country’s relationship with Japan has been characterized by close and unfailing support in so many fields. Japan has acted with compassion and in accordance with international law,” he said.